What is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the digestive system. It is the most common gastro-intestinal disorder in the world with an estimated 15% of the population suffering from IBS world-wide, with UK figures showing that almost 1 in 3 people saying that they suffer from it. Figures though could be even higher than this, as it is thought that half of sufferers never go to a doctor.
There are many symptoms which can vary from person to person but they commonly include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. The impact of IBS can range from mild inconvenience to severe debilitation and so can be very frustrating to live with and can have a huge impact on your daily life.
Currently there are 76 drugs that can be used to treat IBS - 8 of them being anti-depressants – that’s a heck of a lot to try!
The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but research has shown that there is a definite link between the gut and the brain – known as the ‘brain’ in the gut, the ENS (Enteric Nervous System), which is hidden in the walls of the digestive system, is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think.
Nerves in the brain, spinal cord, and intestinal tract are all part of the same developmental process during foetal growth. The closeness of these nerves during development may affect their function during adulthood too.
Research into the enteric nervous system has garnered international attention and although the enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of ‘thought’ as we know it, it does communicate back and forth with our big brain—'with profound results.’
The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, pain and stomach upset.
This new understanding of the ENS-CNS connection helps explain the effectiveness of IBS and bowel-disorder treatments such as mind-body therapies like medical hypnotherapy. It is thought that as our two brains ‘talk’ to each other, so therapies that help one may help the other. Hypnotherapy is a way of helping to sooth that second brain.
The NHS state that hypnotherapy has been shown to be twice as effective at relieving symptoms of IBS than other methods.
It is also a recognised treatment of IBS by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
NICE recommend that people living with IBS who do not respond to pharmacological treatments after 12 months consider a referral for psychological interventions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy and/or psychological therapy.
Prior to commencing hypnotherapy for IBS, it is important that you that you have been given a medical diagnosis, and any reputable hypnotherapist will want to ensure that your GP has excluded any other cause of your symptoms.
However, if you have had your IBS medically diagnosed, you might want to see what hypnotherapy can do for you.